Arkansas River Basin Water Forum: Bob Appel Friend of the Arkansas River Award

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From the Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka): “Carl Genova, 77, who was a board member of the Bessemer Ditch for 38 years and the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District for 20 years, was given the Bob Appel Friend of the Arkansas Award at the forum. The award is named for longtime Southeast Colorado Resource Conservation and Development District coordinator Bob Appel, who was instrumental in organizing the forum from its inception 15 years ago until his death in 2003. It’s given in recognition of those who have worked to improve the Arkansas River…

“Genova was tricked into attending the April 1 meeting in a plot hatched by several Bessemer Ditch board members and Dan Henrichs, a former superintendent of the ditch. Henrichs persuaded Genova to attend the meeting, saying there was an Arkansas Valley Ditch Association problem that required Genova’s experience and expertise to solve. Henrichs even presented some documents to Genova and told him other AVDA members would be on hand after lunch to discuss them. Genova served on the AVDA from 1970-90. “There’s not a person in the Arkansas Valley who knows the river better than Carl,” said Joe Pisciotta, a Bessemer board member after Genova received the award. ‘A successful farmer for more than 50 years, he learned quickly the value of protecting water rights in the valley and seeing that all water users get a fair shake,’ said Phil Reynolds, Southeastern projects manager, in presenting the award to Genova…

“‘Thank you all. I’m overwhelmed by all of this,’ Genova said. ‘I have served on a number of organizations and it’s always been an honor and a privilege.’ Genova always was appointed by Gov. Roy Romer to the Arkansas Valley Compact Administration from 1993-97; president of the Pueblo County Farm Bureau, 1969-70; a member of the Colorado Cattle Feeders Association; and a member of Colorado Water Congress. He and his wife, Ruth, have three children and numerous grandchildren.

“Genova was also recognized by the forum for his work on the winter water program, which allows farmers to store water in winter months for use during planting or harvest season, when irrigation flows can be scarce. When he retired from the Southeastern board last year, he said winter water was his most significant accomplishment. ‘The best thing we did was the winter water program,’ Genova said. ‘The district was able to get all those people together.'”

Meanwhile, here’s an update on tamarisk removal in the Arkansas Basin from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

[Rick] Enstrom has removed 160 acres of tamarisk along 2.25 miles of river bottom in the last five years, with the help of the Natural Resources Conservation Service. In the last two years, he’s released 13 batches of beetles on his property. The beetles are the only natural limit on the spread of tamarisk, also called salt cedar, in climates like Southern Colorado’s. In fact, they have been so successful in central Asia that in some areas, it is hard to find tamarisk, which is still prized as an ornamental, Enstrom said…

The Arkansas River basin has about 67,000 acres infested with tamarisk, or 69 percent of the state’s total, said Jean Van Pelt, conservation programs coordinator with the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. It’s estimated that those trees annually suck up 76,600 acre-feet of water – 25 billion gallons – more than native vegetation. The trees grow in upland areas, as well as in the flood plain of rivers and streams. As areas now infested fill in, the water loss could grow to 198,000 acre-feet – 64.5 billion gallons – per year. To eradicate tamarisk would cost $70 million. “We have a choice,” Van Pelt said. “We can take action and do something, or most likely it’s going to get worse.” Van Pelt has led efforts in recent years to organize groups fighting tamarisk up and down the Arkansas River, which culminated in the Arkansas River Watershed Invasive Plant Plan, a strategic plan that links efforts in the valley. A Web site providing information about tamarisk, maps, research, area control programs, education and events concerning tamarisk was established as part of the task force’s work. In addition, the task force was able to define goals for the valley and put it in a better position to receive state or federal grants aimed at tamarisk control, Van Pelt said.

The strategy is to control the sources of tamarisk in the upper basin, above Lake Pueblo, while dealing with the areas of heavy infestation in the lower basin that already pose flooding and fire dangers. This year, a demonstration project on Four Mile Creek in Fremont County will attempt to eradicate tamarisk on an entire tributary. Meanwhile, there are projects on Fountain Creek, North La Junta, Las Animas, the Purgatoire River and in Prowers County, Van Pelt said.

The state is providing $4 million over four years, and federal demonstration projects are being sought as well.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

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